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What I'm curious about right now
What if you embraced your shadows? A curiosity experiment.

What if you embraced your shadows? A curiosity experiment.

The naysayer.
The social media addict.
The procrastinator.
The maximizer.
The perfectionist.
The people pleaser.

I have a lot of demons, gremlins, shadow selves – whatever you want to call them – that show up on the regular. And while I enjoy a good debate with my demons, I’ve also been experimenting recently with a less confrontational approach. When I have my wits about me, I’ll turn to whichever one has shown up, and ask them what they want.

The social media addict craves connection, recognition, validation.

The maximizer wants impact, imagination, joy.

The perfectionist wants safety, security, and to feel worthy.

When we recognize the underlying needs, the demon shape-shifts into an unmet need.

Here’s this week’s curiosity experiment:

  • What shadows (or demons, or gremlins) want to be embraced?
  • What do they want – and how might you meet those needs?
  • What changes when you see them with compassion?

Photo credit: Vek Labs on Unsplash.)

Why other people’s business “systems” haven’t worked for you

Why other people’s business “systems” haven’t worked for you

(Hint: it isn’t you.)

Most of us who start small businesses didn’t start out in business school. We didn’t read all the textbooks, or learn how to read a balance sheet until we’d gotten far enough to hire an accountant.

We all have lots to learn, especially in the early days. So it’s seductive when we find someone who seems to have it all figured out, and has packaged it up in a shiny, “Follow These Three Sure-Fire Steps” kinda way.

A lot of my clients come to me after having invested a lot of time and money in these systems, and they tell me they feel like failures because:

  • the system didn’t work for them,
  • they never got around to implementing it fully, or
  • something about it just didn’t sit well with them.

I’m of the opinion that while there’s a lot of value in many of these tools and processes, they go about things backwards.

They focus so much on the outcomes – especially the financial ones – that they lose sight of what drives you.

They’re all profit margins and no purpose.
All world domination and no connection.
All quantity and no quality.

The business owners I know aren’t just in it for the $$ – sure, you want to make a healthy living, but there’s something else that gets you moving, keeps you going forward even when things are hard.

99% of the usual planning tools, marketing systems, and cookie-cutter courses are based on assumptions. They assume they know what your version of a successful business looks like – but the truth is, that’s different for everyone. Every great business is built from a set of very personal values, drivers, and preferences – and if you try to simply replicate someone else’s model, without sharing those drivers, that model isn’t going to work for you.

(And that’s not even getting into all the people who just want to sell you what worked for them, without bothering to ask themselves if it even applies to anyone outside their particular circumstances. That’s a whole other rant.)

So instead of jumping straight into planning frameworks, I always start by helping you define success for yourself. That way, when you develop your strategic plans, you’ll have way more clarity, energy, and momentum for moving forward with them.

I know this might sound like more work than following one of those “systems,” but it actually requires way less effort, because you’ll be trusting yourself rather than trying to squeeze yourself into someone else’s cookie-cutter formula.

Put another way: until you’re clear on the business you want to build, and what gets you motivated to move forward on your strategic plans, all the magic formulas in the world won’t move you forward.

5 ways to redefine business growth

5 ways to redefine business growth

Some years, you look at your business financials and feel all warm and fuzzy. You hit or exceeded your targets; you did better than the year before; and all in all, your P&L statement has some very pleasing numbers that compare well to last year’s.

Other years… don’t look as shiny.

And yet, that doesn’t mean your business hasn’t grown in important ways. And I don’t just mean “I learned an important life lesson” ways. I mean real business growth — just maybe not the kind that shows up in your financial statements, except perhaps in the explanatory footnotes.

If you’re having a year like this — a year that isn’t likely to wow the number-crunchers in your midst — then this post is for you.

I want to celebrate the kinds of growth your business does beyond the balance sheet.

1. Increased clarity.

You figured out what you’re actually best at. You fired some bad clients, cut a product line that wasn’t your best work, stopped trying to land customers that just weren’t that into you. You faced the truth and made some tough calls.

Now you’re positioned to make the most of your marketing and sales efforts, and more likely to turn a consistent profit. This is important growth, even if it temporarily appears as shrinkage.

2. Expanded offerings.

You dedicated time and energy to crafting and piloting a new offering. While it required an investment of resources, you’re wrapping up the beta phase and ready to launch.

This kind of growth increases your potential customer base, and can have positive results for your sales funnel as well as your profit margin. Good for you for investing in customer research and product-market fit; it’s critical to your long-term success.

3. Developing your team.

You took some courses, hired a coach, mentored your people. You invested in building skills, expertise, and leadership capacity on your team.

Again, this is likely to show up primarily as a cost to your business in the short term, but longer term it will benefit you in the form of greater effectiveness, and more skills you can leverage for your customers.

4. Healthier workplace.

You’ve been working your tail off for years, but this year you slowed down. You took some time off, started being more consistent about your work hours, trusted the business to survive without you for a few days/weeks/months while you rested/got well/parented/cared for a loved one/got sober/traveled/took a sabbatical.

This is good for your business. Your business needs to be able to function without you. It’s an important maturation milestone. And it’s so, so, so, so good for you.

5. Refining your systems and processes.

Perhaps the least sexy thing on this list, to most people, but I’m into this stuff. Maybe you finally got around to documenting your onboarding process for new hires or new clients. Or you figured out a better way to invoice customers. Maybe you found efficiencies, or a better way to make your products, or just a way sleeker email marketing platform that has made your life sooooo much easier. Perhaps you took the time to connect all the various software you use, reducing error margins and making better use of the data you capture.

This is important growth. And it will pay off in the form of higher profits, more customer referrals, or straight-up happiness for you — all important growth metrics.

What have I missed? How has your business grown that might not be apparent (yet) to your bookkeeper? I’m all ears.